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A new and improved take on the classic broccoli salad! Crunchy and savory sweet, it stars broccoli, raisins, and a flavor-popping dressing.

Broccoli Salad
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Love broccoli salad? Us too. There’s something about that classic American broccoli salad: you know, the one with raisins and a mayo-based dressing? It’s a retro summer salad, where the florets are marinaded in the sauce until they’re soft and savory sweet. It’s oddly satisfying and gives us all those nostalgic vibes. Here’s a new and improved version of to make it fresh and healthy: but it keeps all the character and deliciousness of the original. In fact: we think it’s even better.

Broccoli salad: new and improved!

Mayo dressing and raisins reeks of the 1950’s and 60’s, right? While we couldn’t find a definitive history of broccoli salad, it’s got all the markers of those decades. Usually this salad is topped with bacon and sometimes cheese: taking it from a fresh and healthy salad to a decadent treat. So here at A Couple Cooks, we set about to modernize this classic (just like we did with this green bean casserole). Here’s why you should make this broccoli salad recipe:

  • Dressing with just enough mayo. Mayo brings big flavor and texture, but it doesn’t need to be swimming in the stuff. This dressing is just the right blend of creamy and savory sweet. Vegan mayo is becoming easy to find: use that for a plant-based broccoli salad.
  • Skip the cheese and bacon. Salad doesn’t need cheese and bacon to taste good! Removing those, it’s fresh and plant based.
  • Same great flavor…or better! This salad is just as satisfying as the standard…in fact, we think it’s even tastier!
Broccoli salad

Ingredients for broccoli salad

Are you convinced? Here are the ingredients you’ll need for the base of this broccoli salad:

  • Fresh broccoli: make sure it’s at its peak freshness. The fresher the broccoli, the better the salad!
  • Red onion
  • Carrot
  • Raisins: You also can use dried cranberries or cherries
  • Mayo: Use vegan mayo as desired
  • Cider vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Maple syrup or sugar: Either works! use pure maple syrup for a naturally sweet salad!
Broccoli salad

Add the smoky sunflower seed topping!

Remember we told you we removed the bacon from the classic broccoli salad? You don’t need anything in place of it. But if you really want to take this salad over the top: make this smoky sunflower seed topping! It mimics the flavor of bacon using sunflower seeds that are flavored with soy sauce, maple syrup and smoked paprika. They bring just the right smoky and savory flavor to the salad.

What’s smoked paprika? It’s a smoky Spanish version of sweet paprika. You should be able to find it at most grocery stores: it’s sometimes labeled pimentón. Smoked paprika is our secret weapon in plant-based cooking and we use it in so many recipes! Go to Best Smoked Paprika Recipes to use up a jar.

How to make broccoli salad

Do you really have to refrigerate 1 hour?

Great question: and we like that you love shortcuts (we do too). In this case though: the wait time makes a difference. Yes, you do have to refrigerate broccoli salad for 1 hour! Here’s why:

  • It makes just the right tender broccoli texture. Technically, you can eat it right away. But if you do, the broccoli is crisp. Honestly, it just doesn’t taste right! Refrigerate 1 hour, and it softens just enough.
  • The flavors permeate even more! The flavor also tastes better after that 1 hour soak. The broccoli salad tastes even more tangy and savory sweet.
Broccoli salad

More broccoli recipes

Guess what? We have so many more classic broccoli recipes to enjoy this healthy veggie! Here are some favorites that you should try:

  • Broccoli Slaw This creamy broccoli slaw is irresistibly tasty! It’s easy to make using fresh broccoli or the packaged mix you can find in most grocery stores.
  • Quick Cheesy Broccoli is the best fast and easy side dish! A fan favorite.
  • Blanched Broccoli A simple, crowd pleasing way to cook this veggie.
  • Epic Roasted Broccoli Makes this green veggie taste SO GOOD you can’t stop sneaking bites! It’s charred until tender, then spritzed with lemon juice.
  • Pan Fried Broccoli Perfect for weeknights! Crisp tender and full of flavor.
  • Parmesan Broccoli We dare you not to take another bite of this crispy, crunchy Parmesan broccoli!
  • Creamy Broccoli Potato Soup Intensely creamy, satisfying, and 100% plant based! It’s an easy healthy soup that everyone loves.
  • Broccolini Salad Want a unique spin on this salad? Make it with broccolini!

This broccoli salad recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free. For vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free, use vegan mayo.

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Broccoli Salad

Broccoli Salad (New & Improved!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 4 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 75 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x


A new and improved take on the classic broccoli salad! Crunchy and savory sweet, it stars broccoli, raisins, and a flavor-popping dressing.


  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds broccoli on the stalk, enough for 8 cups florets
  • 1 cup sliced red onion
  • 1 carrot, julienned or grated
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup mayonnaise (vegan mayo as needed)
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the topping

  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika


  1. Chop the broccoli into very small florets. Slice the red onion. Stir together with the raisins.
  2. Whisk together the mayo, apple cider vinegar, sugar, Dijon mustard and salt. Add to the vegetables and mix to combine. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld and the broccoli to become soft (you can eat right away but the broccoli is crisp and has less of the traditional texture).
  3. Meanwhile, place the sunflower seeds, soy sauce, sugar, smoked paprika, and 2 pinches kosher salt in a skillet. Heat over medium low heat and sauté for about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are sticky and most of the liquid is evaporated, taking care that they do not burn and scraping any sticky bits from the bottom of the pan. When they are sticky and darkened in color (and may have clumped together), remove from the heat and spread them onto parchment paper in a single layer and allow them to dry until serving, about 10 minutes.
  4. When ready to serve, top the salad with the sunflower seeds.
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Raw
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

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About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Laurie Cardona says:

    Great recipe! The balance of sweet, savory, and tart is on point and the sunflower seed topping is not to be missed! Delicious!

  2. Carrie says:

    Hello fr Canada. You were highly recommended by Siri. A robot in my phone ☎️ suggested I go to you two; above e1 else in the whole world, for salad recipes on beans. Also I requested Siri provide me a site that doesn’t have altered recipes from hacks.

  3. Cherl W says:

    I forgot the mayo but it doesn’t need it! I love the bright, fresh flavor of this salad with just a subtle sweet note from the carrot and raisins. Yum!

  4. Renata Bothma says:

    Trying to figure out ways to get my husband to eat broccoli, because I know it is so good for him. He does not like broccoli at all….. BUT, I made this yesterday and he went back for seconds!! Winner all the way! I substituted the raisins with cranberries -that was what I had available – and it turned out really delicious.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Love this

      1. Johanna says:

        This recipe looks delicious! Question: how long does this salad keep for? If I wanted to keep in the fridge for a few hours take for lunch or prep ahead for dinner the next day would this keep? I’m hoping this would keep well for meal prep or if anyone has any ideas on how to prep this for throughout the week

        1. Alex Overhiser says:

          Hi! It’s best day-of, but will keep for 3 days in the fridge.

  5. Sharon A Leahy says:

    With the covid crisis, I’ve started to worry about who has been handling the fresh vegetables before I buy them, in fact, I’ve pretty much stopped buying fresh food that I can’t wash well, like broccoli, lettuce, parsley, and so on. I’m confident washing apples, oranges, and so on, but not greens. Any suggestions?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Hi! We rinse them really well in a large bowl of water and then dry thoroughly with a salad spinner.